Porthouse Theatre has chosen a swashbuckling adventure that the creative team promises will appeal to all ages with Starmites, the second show of the season at Kent State’s summer theater home.
Artistic Director Terri Kent said she fell in love with the show through its music, which led her to the fantasy musical’s imaginative script written by Barry Keating and Stuart Ross.
“It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a classic good-over-evil, boy-meets-girl, falls-in-love, teenager-struggling-over-identity type of story,” she said.
The musical’s eclectic score includes doo-wop, contemporary musical theater songs, boy band sounds, ’80s-style pop tunes and ballads, and even some ’40s swing and Wagnerian-style opera sounds. The production previews at 8 tonight and opens 8 p.m. Friday, continuing through July 19. (Call 330-672-3884 or see www.porthousetheatre.com for tickets.)
In this story, shy teenager Eleanor sees her comic books come to life in a fantasy in which she becomes a superheroine thrust into a conflict between the evil Shak Graa and the Starmites — the guardian angels of Innerspace.
In this wacky family-friendly show, Innerspace is a parallel universe where the Starmites are an ’80s-style boy band that communicates in four-part harmony. Their enemies, the all-lady Banshees, eat boy bands for dinner.
“The story is so fresh, wholesome from a teenager’s perspective — a comic book world,” Kent said of the original 1989 Broadway show, which garnered six Tony nominations.
She and Starmites director Michael McIntosh described the musical as a mix of The Wizard of Oz, Little Shop of Horrors and The Lord of the Rings.
Kent and director Michael McIntosh said Starmites has a challenging score with guys’ vocal ranges that are out of this world.
“It’s difficult because it’s so good. It’s a fantastic score and has all these rich, tight harmonies,” McIntosh said.
The show stars Equity actress Colleen Longshaw as both Eleanor’s mother and Diva, head of the Banshees. Ten others from Porthouse’s Young Professional Company will perform, including Lucy Anders of Baldwin Wallace in dual roles as Eleanor and Bizarbara; Milliken University graduate Darian Lunsford as likable lizard Trinkulus plus the evil Shak Graa; and KSU grad Daniel Linderberger as Spacepunk, leader of the Starmites.
Keating has worked with Porthouse on the show, which was first presented Off-Off Broadway in 1980. (The musical also ran Off-Broadway in 1987 before its 1989 Broadway premiere.) He gave Porthouse the go-ahead to produce the original comic book-themed version of Starmites rather than the updated Starmites Pro version, which has a darker graphic novel tone and includes some rap.
In April, Keating and McIntosh worked at Kent State on tweaking some of the dialogue and songs. The rap from the 2001 version has been dropped and the original opening scene has been finessed to make the story’s exposition clearer.
The goal was to “keep the golden age comic book feel to the story and update it a little bit with a little bit of new dialogue from the darker graphic novel version,” McIntosh said.
“We turned it into a swashbuckling sci-fi space adventure. Now it’s bright, like a 1950s comic book.”
The final result is a one-of-a-kind rendition of Starmites for Porthouse. It’s performed in tongue-in-cheek style, with big comic book bubbles popping up with words in them at key points in the action.
Otherworldly costumes include painted scales and a lizard headpiece and tail for Trinkulus; fiber-optic fabrics that light for the Starmites; and sexy boots and wild hairstyles for the Banshees.
Kent State/Porthouse has another interesting connection to the show: Theater professor Chuck Richie, who retired in May, performed in the original 1980 production as an evil henchman, a character that was later cut. Richie and Starmites creator Keating are longtime friends.
Kent said now’s the perfect time to revisit Starmites, with all the recent interest in retro pop in the musical theater world, including Rock of Ages, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and even Jersey Boys.
“I think the show was 25 years ahead of its time, ” Kent said of Starmites.
Weathervane Playhouse’s fourth 8X10 Theatrefest, which is always a blast, will run 8 p.m. July 11-12 and 2:30 p.m. July 13. The playwright finalists and their 10-minute plays are:
• Brandi Eaton of Stow, A Telegram in the World of Smartphones
• Bonnie Milne Gardner of Delaware, Ohio, At the Wall
• James Walczy of Hilton Head, S.C., Dear Susan Love Harold
• Joy Gee of Sacramento, Calif., Keeper
• E. Scott Icenhower of Greensboro, N.C., Love, Theatre and Damn Yankees
• James Caputo of San Diego, Calif., Table for Two
• Aaron McDavis of Rowlett, Texas, The Psycho’s Path
• Rebecca Gorman O’Neill of Denver, Colo. (originally from Akron), You’ve Got the Wrong Dragon.
Cost is $10 to see all eight new 10-minute works and vote for your favorite. Call 330-836-2323.
Music and wine
Hale Farm & Village has added a new element to its 40-year-old Music in the Valley Folk Festival — wine. The festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 12-13, will have a wine garden featuring Maize Valley Winery, Troutman Vineyards and Winery, the Winery at Wolf Creek and Myrddin Winery. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children 3-12, free for Western Reserve Historical Society members. See www.halefarm.org or call 330-666-3711.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.